John Force is participating this week in his 751st NHRA event. That’s 750 plus one. He’s making his 32nd appearance at Pacific Raceways, where he’s won a record eight times in the CatSpot NHRA Northwest Nationals, and yet the 16-time champion, Hall of Fame inductee and father of Mello Yello tour sensations Brittany and Courtney Force, isn’t quite ready to call it a career.
In fact, coming off a win to start the Western Swing two weeks ago at Denver and following a semifinal finish last week at Sonoma, Calif., the patriarch of drag racing’s first family, is headed toward the Countdown with momentum and a renewed belief in himself and the team that supports his PEAK Coolant and Motor Oil Chevrolet Camaro.
Don’t be mistaken, Force isn’t battling for a berth in the Countdown simply to secure his 34th consecutive Top 10 finish. He’s not in it for a participation trophy. The fact is, he still believes he’s got another championship in him.
Battered physically and emotionally in a series of accidents to start the season, three of them serious enough to send him to the hospital, the 69-year-old has fought his way back into the Top 10, back to respectability and back into contention.
“Right now, my goal is to keep my team together and just keep getting better,” he explained. “These crew chiefs, Jon Schaffer, Ronnie Thompson and Joe Veyette, these guys are really teaching these kids how not to make mistakes with the cars. I just gotta get a little bit better myself.
“I’m still learning about this hot rod and what it does because it reacts crazy when it gets fast, but I’m excited about it,” Force said. “I told these guys, ‘give me a car that’ll go down the race track and I’ll give you some wins.’ So, we’ll just show up this weekend and see what we can do.”
The only Funny Car driver to have swept the three races in the Western Swing (back in 1994), Force has won at least one tour event in 31 of the last 32 seasons and believes he has a car that can win in the Countdown which starts in September.
“I don’t feel any different,” Force said of his relationship to a sport that has been his life for more than four decades. “The real truth is when it’s time (to get out of the car), I’ll know and I’ll make that decision. But it ain’t time yet. I’m having too much fun.
“I want to win,” he said with special emphasis, “and with these kids and this race car, I can. I’ve been wanting to win since I was a kid. I had a lot of practice at losing in the old days and I ain’t giving it up now that I’m winning.”
Qualifying at the 31st annual Cat Spot NHRA Northwest Nationals begins with two sessions on Friday at 4 and 6 p.m. with two additional sessions on Saturday at 2 and 4:30 p.m. Eliminations are set to begin Sunday at 11 a.m.
JFR PR/Photo Credit: Gary Nastase, Auto Imagery